Everything plummeted in 2020 by comparison | TERESA AYUGA

It was early August 2020. Bibi did an excellent caricature for my weekly review page. ‘Commanding a tide of infection’ of August 2, this concerned the then Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa. He was Canute, attempting to repel a tide of increased infection. Oh, how the minister must have yearned for the months of the state of alarm. Infections were rising, and there was precious little he could do. He couldn’t command, as responsibilities were once more those of the regions, and there was no state of alarm to close the borders and therefore the airports.

There are times when I need to remind myself of the years, as it has been as if an entire twelve months have been erased. 2020 merged seamlessly with 2021. It is only when I get presented with the not infrequent comparative statistics news reports that I am reassured that two years were not compressed into one. 2019 has become the year of reference. Everything plummeted in 2020 by comparison. Everything soared in 2021 by comparison with 2020, but fell compared with 2019. So there is always 2019 to remind us - B.C., Before Covid. Will comparisons with B.C. still be needed in 2023?

A parlour game that originated in lockdown was guess the year for normality. Everyone played it and continues to play it. Tourism will return in ... (add as deemed applicable). Certain players have known more than others in backing up their guesses. Consultancies and organisations with grand and important titles and names have pronounced, their guesses far more than guesses as they are backed up by data. Data? What data? And even based on current data, these can be rendered meaningless as new attempts are made to repel the tide.

In August 2020, you could understand Illa’s vain attempts. As it was to turn out, he had other governments to thank, as they blocked the safe travel corridors (remember them?) because Illa had failed so utterly. Not, to be fair, that it was his fault. In truth, it was no one’s fault. Pedro Sánchez may have suggested in June 2020 - and yes, it really was that long ago - that the virus had been beaten. But the virus didn’t know defeat. Consequently, 2020 did indeed merge into 2021 and with restrictions firmly clamped in place. The difference, though, was the vaccine.

Some twelve months after Salvador on the beach was when Sánchez had predicted normality, or a normality. By late summer 2021, 70% of the population would have been vaccinated. Herd immunity would be arriving. But this turned out to be wrong. Seventy per cent was too low, as the Delta variant had demonstrated how well the virus could fight back.

And so it has gone on, but now with the twist of the strange symbiosis of Omicron and vaccine, a symbiosis enabled by vaccine, as otherwise - to quote professor of immunology, Alfredo Corell - Omicron would have caused a “stratospheric massacre”.

That’s something of the sort that was being hinted at two years ago. In the dark late nights of early lockdown, there was a radio interview I’ll never forget. An expert told Colin Murray that everyone will eventually get the virus. There was dead air for a moment. Murray was shocked, and when spoke he suggested that this was the type of information to make him and everyone want to poo their pants. He was more blunt than that.

It was February 7, 2020 when the first coronavirus close contacts and positive case were registered in Majorca. How rapidly it all developed. It could therefore prompt that type of prediction. Two years on and there are still the predictions, such as 50% of Europe getting Omicron, allied to the forecasts for tourism normality and all the rest. Corell said the other day that it was a “little premature” to be talking of a full recovery. In two to three months, there may well be a different situation.

But it’s as if we are forever holding on for a different situation and reminded daily that predictions aren’t always accurate. 20% of people in the Balearics have had Covid (so not 50% or 100%), yet even a seemingly high percentage as 20% has little impact. The number of cases doubled over a three-month period from last October, mainly because of Omicron, but Canute-like, there were efforts to repel the tide, until it was realised that they were somewhat unnecessary.

Perhaps it is a little premature, but things are being dropped and should continue to be dropped. The Covid time continuum can’t continue to compress whole years into one, the shifts that there have been no longer characterised by, say, landmarks for a vaccination programme that is now such that appointments are not needed.

There was a Before Covid. There has to be a now, and it can start with the Covid passport.